Monday, September 29, 2003

Bush doesn't want to know

I have a new appreciation for the job journalists have after reading the transcript of this morning's White House press gaggle that Josh Marshal has so kindly posted on his blog. Just reading this stuff makes my head spin. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to actually be involved in it:

QUESTION: Has the President either asked Karl Rove to assure him that he had nothing to do with this; or did Karl Rove go to the President to assure him that he --

McCLELLAN: I don't think he needs that. I think I've -- and I've spoken clearly to this publicly that -- but it's -- yes, I've just said it's -- there's no truth to it.

QUESTION: But I mean --

McCLELLAN: So I think it doesn't --

QUESTION: But is the President getting his information from you? Or did the President and Karl Rove talk, and were there assurances given that Rove was not involved?

McCLELLAN: I've already provided those assurances to you publicly.

QUESTION: Yes, but I'm just wondering if there was a conversation between Karl Rove and the President, or if he just talked to you, and you're here at this --

McCLELLAN: He wasn't involved. The President knows he wasn't involved.

QUESTION: How does he know that?

QUESTION: How does he know that?

McCLELLAN: The President knows.

QUESTION: What, is he clairvoyant? How does he know?

QUESTION: You spoke specifically -- you spoke to Rove specifically about this matter, correct?

McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: You spoke to Rove specifically about this matter? You asked him whether or not he was the leaker, or --

McCLELLAN: I don't know what the relevance of getting into every private conversation, John -- is, John. I've made it very clear that it's simply not true.

QUESTION: Based on what?

QUESTION: Based on what?

QUESTION: What are you basing -- what are you --

McCLELLAN: Someone asked me if I had spoken with him, and I said, yes.

QUESTION: And you spoke with him about this issue?

QUESTION: Did you ask him, directly?

McCLELLAN: I have spoken with him, yes.

QUESTION: But the President hasn't spoken with him directly about this issue? You have and the President hasn't?

McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Keith.

QUESTION: Well, that was the question.

McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: You spoke directly with Rove about this?

McCLELLAN: I have spoken -- I speak to him all the time, on a lot of things.

QUESTION: He categorically denied to you --

McCLELLAN: I just told you, it's simply not true.

QUESTION: Yes, but you refuse to say whether or not it was Rove who told you it's untrue.

McCLELLAN: No, no, I spoke to Rove. I spoke to him about -- no, I spoke to him about these accusations, I've spoken to him.

QUESTION: And Rove told you that they were not true --

McCLELLAN: That's why I would be telling --

QUESTION: -- or is it just you --

McCLELLAN: That's why I would be telling you what I did.

QUESTION: -- or is it just you who is telling us?

McCLELLAN: No, I have spoken to him and been assured. And that's why I reported to you and reported to the media that it is simply not true. I like to check my sources, just like you do.

McClellan never says that Rove told him that he was not involved, even when the press gave him multiple opportunities to say just that. McClellan went out of his way to re-iterate the "it's simply not true" line without simply answering yes to the "did Rove categorically deny" question. Furthermore, he says the President "knows [Rove] wasn't involved" but he carefully avoids explaining how Bush knows this.

I think the evidence from this is pretty strong that Rove was at least involved if not one of the actual leakers. "The President knows he wasn't involved" line is a convenient dodge for Bush because he probably doesn't know that Rove was involved even though he has to know there's a good chance that he was. McClellan clearly avoids confirming whether Bush has specifically asked for a denial from Rove. This allows Bush to continue asserting that he doesn't "know" Rove was involved.

Clearly the White House is in a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" mode right now. Bush probably doesnt know if Rove was involved in this, but he isn't bothering to ask either and is hoping that some perfunctory Justice department investigation will be enough to get them beyond this matter.

Strong evidence has been brought forth that at least two of his close advisors have revealed the identify of a CIA asset for political purposes. Does Bush respond in outrage to this and ask his people to come clean on this in order to demonstrate that this kind of thing will simply not be tolerated in his White House? Of course not! If he were to do that then he really would know what was going on and then he would be responsible for what happens next. And what happens next might mean losing his most trusted aide, Karl Rove, just as the 2004 election is ramping up.

Bush doesn't want to know what is going on because the political cost to him are too frightening to deal with. He would rather risk the lives of CIA assets than risk his own political future.

So much for "Honor and Integrity".

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